Offering a treasure trove of interactive content for kids ages 5–12 this summer, Story Pirates has joined forces with Random House Children’s Books to reprise its Creator Camp. The virtual educational program will kick off on June 14, with seven weeks of themed activities—adventure, comedy, fantasy, comics, mystery, spy and superhero—designed to engage young readers’ minds and boost literacy skills.

“With their ability to entertain kids while also showing them the joy that can be had in writing and telling their own stories, the Story Pirates are truly one of a kind,” said Noreen Herits, executive director of publicity at Random House Children’s Books. “We are so excited to join forces with them on this virtual summer camp that will give young aspiring writers the chance to interact with 24 authors and illustrators, including fan favorites like Mary Pope Osborne and Chris Grabenstein.”

All the Words a Stage

A media company founded in 2004, Story Pirates was conceived in a New York City school auditorium where a group of performers created a sketch comedy show based on original stories created by kids. The group has gone on to produce a radio show, a podcast that has been streamed 30 million times, a live national tour, and a middle-grade book series published by Penguin Random House—a relationship that laid the groundwork for the Story Pirates Creator Camp.

“At Story Pirates, everything we do is centered around the belief that kids are creative geniuses,” said national producing director Glynis Brault. “We think that kids are so inherently funny, and way more imaginative than adults most of the time. Our mission is to celebrate that and amplify their words, ideas, and stories.”

Last summer, the nine-week program attracted more than 2,500 participants, offering a viable alternative to traditional day camp amid the pandemic. “We wanted to give kids and families something silly and fun they could do from home, knowing they wouldn’t get to attend camp in person,” Brault said. While she is cognizant of the fact that this year’s series would not run as long and the attendee list would not be as robust, she believes that the choice to offer morning-only sessions is a more appealing option for busy families. With sessions scheduled on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, registered participants can supplement literacy-based adventures with suggested outdoor activities in the afternoon.

Building on the previous year’s agenda, Creator Camp will include incorporate live drawing, which was a popular component with kids of all ages. Brault noted how “having some of the most talented children’s book illustrators draw while kids are calling out ideas and suggestions was really special, and something we wanted to make sure we had the opportunity to do again.”

Also piggybacking on the success of last summer’s model, select authors—including several returning guests, such as Osborne, Grabenstein, Judd Winick, Sarah Sax, and Theanne Griffith—will be on hand to share their creative processes and field questions from inquisitive campers. The first week, June 14–18, follows an adventure theme, “Where in the World Is Rolo Vincent?,” and features Osborne, Griffith and Courtney Sheinmel. “I vividly remember as a child being fascinated and enthralled by kids’ programming featuring adults doing silly things,” Griffith said. “How cool would it have been to be a participant on one of those shows? Well, now I get to do just that!” The complete list of authors/illustrators can be found here.

Following each session, campers can download Story Sparks ideas and activities to extend their experience and access book bundles (included with their registration fee) curated by Story Pirates and Random House. “We’ve been discussing building out a wider network of independent booksellers and librarians to work with to make the book bundles and camp livestreams available for those channels as well,” Brault added.

While Random House is helping coordinate Creator Camp’s outreach with schools and libraries, Story Pirates is also tapping partner schools that have hosted in-school programs prior to the pandemic. Brault is excited by the ability to bring the new roster of authors to students whom Story Pirates has not been able to connect with this past year.

For parents concerned about the myriad educational setbacks their children have endured during the pandemic, Story Pirates Creator Camp aims to fill in the gaps with enrichment and entertaining content. “Many of the fun interactive activities we do in camp are really connected to the building blocks of story writing, such as creating a character, describing a setting, and identifying a problem,” Brault explained. “We have a way of making writing and learning feel like fun for kids, which is a great way to keep them learning over the summer.”